No Blaise: Mental Breakdown

August 24th, 2016

I’ve mentioned I’m in the throws of my usual end of quarter routine–mental breakdown, losing track of days, full life collapse. What I haven’t mentioned yet, but what you probably have already guessed is going on, is my usual procrastination.

Since I make it my mission every quarter to do better with not saving everything to the last minute, I’ve done better with keeping up with assignments. I even have one already (almost) done that isn’t due until midnight tonight.

It’s really great that I’ve been able to somewhat keep track of my work in these two classes, and then I remember that I’m taking a third class, my internship at Newberry, and I’m all like “Oh Shit, I have about 10 week worth of lesson plans and reflections to write in a one week period.”

“Oh shit, I also have two quizzes and a project that consists of creating a months worth of content for a first grade classroom due at the beginning of the next week.” “Oh shit, I also have a full time job.” “Oh shit, I also like having friends and drinking alcohol.”

Oh shit, Oh shit, Oh shit.

So, here I am with a week left in the quarter, and a week and one day away from vacation in California, all “my brais melting do I even have the mental capacity to pull off one more sentence of work, let alone journals, and quizzes, and 20 days worth of relevant lessons for first graders.

The answer to this is: You don’t wanna take these god damn classes over, so caffeinate yourself and GET TO WORK.

It’s always nice to know you’re not alone in a sinking ship/brain explosion/body shut down, so my classmate Kim and I often exchange text messages that go something like:

“I’m confused”

“Me too”

“It’s because my brain is melted”


“It’s because I love wine”

“Me too”

“I’m only one human with one average sized brain!”


“Will we be single forever?”

“It’s looking that way.”

“K cool.”

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Jim Siergey: View From The Couch

August 21st, 2016

Turn on the TV. Flick through the stations. Settle on Sox game.

“What’s the score?”

“5 to 5 in the 5th.”

“Why, that’s…”


Smile. Pause.

“I wonder where that came from?”



Pick up the iPad. Type in ‘origin of the word quintessential’ and just like that, faster than you can say Jack Googleson, states:

“Quintessence literally means ‘the fifth essence’. It is derived from Medieval French which took the word from Latin, as quinta essentia and was used to refer to the heavenly bodies and to be latent in all things.


It was some Bruce Willis flick…


It was introduced to philosophical theory by Aristotle. The basic idea being that there were five elements that made up all matter: fire, earth, air, water and quintessence, also known as aether, which was thought to make up the heavenly bodies and the rest of the universe.

Over time, our scientific knowledge evolved and the theory of the five elements was dismissed but quintessential stuck on in there by hanging on to that last part of its meaning ‘latent in all things’—so that it eventually came to mean ‘the intrinsic and central constituent of something’ or ‘the most perfect or typical example’.”

The Fifth Element.

I think that was the name of a movie, a Bruce Willis vehicle, I believe.

Or am I thinking of Twelve Monkeys? (I never was very good at math) Bruce Willis was in that one too.

Dare I declare those as quintessential Bruce Willis roles despite never having seen either film?

Sure, why not? So-called experts commentate on things they know nothing about all the time.

I look back at the TV screen.

Sox are down 7-5.

She’s gone back to reading her book.

I search for the remote in order to surf the channels.


Another quintessential evening in the Siergey household.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Hungarian


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Jim Siergey: The Hungarian

August 13th, 2016

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, Waldo took a stroll through the park. Flowers were blooming, birds were chirping and squirrels were scampering but, sitting forlornly on a bench was his old friend Emerson.

Waldo took a seat next to his disconsolate amigo and inquired about his sorry-looking state.

“Oh, it’s my neighbor.” wailed Emerson, “He’s driving me crazy.”

“The Hungarian?” asked Waldo.

“Yes, Gergő. He has decided to become a Buddhist.“

“What’s wrong with that?” queried Waldo as he produced a banana from his coat pocket and began to peel it.

“Nothing, nothing at all. It’s just that he keeps trying to convert me. All week long, it’s been Krishna-this and Dharma-that. If I hear about Zen just one more time, I’ll…”

Waldo swallowed his mouthful of elongated fruit and rejoined with “Well, he is from Budapest.”

Emerson’s responsive groan sounded almost like “Ommmm.”


Just like Zsa Zsa…


Waldo entered “Chez When”, the favorite watering hole of his and his comrade-in-arms, Emerson.

Emerson was already there, seated on a stool and looking a bit concerned as he sipped at his pint of bitters. Waldo took the recently vacated and still-warm seat next to him and ordered a pint of Milk Stout. While anticipating its arrival he turned to Emerson and studied his face of wrinkled brow and ungainly moue.

“What is the matter, old chum?” he earnestly inquired, “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

Emerson sighed deeply, finished off the dregs of his drink and gestured to the barkeep for another before replying.

“You remember my old friend, Henry, don’t you? I hadn’t seen him in a month of Sundays and three Tuesdays but here he was when I entered this establishment and he had had a snootful.”

Waldo tongued the stout mustache from his upper lip and said, “Is that what has upset you so?”

Emerson nodded in thanks to the barkeep for the delivery of his liquid request before responding to his stool mate.

“It was what he had told me that has put me in a bit of a state. I feel so sorry for the man. He’s a bit of a woodsman, you know, very successful in the lumber business. A real man’s man.”

Waldo, his attention almost diverted by a pair of pretty lasses who had begun to participate in a game of darts, drank and waited for Emerson to get to the point.

“The old gent is quite upset, you see. His son, whom he had hoped would enter the logging business with him, has gone off on an entirely different path.”

“Well, that happens.” murmured Waldo as he neared the bottom of his glass.

“Oh, but this path, my dear fellow, is as far a field from the woods as a path can be. He’s going about clad in ballet slippers, tight black slacks, striped shirt and with his countenance completely covered with chalky white makeup.”

He paused for effect before elucidating loudly, “He’s become a mime, Waldo, a blasted mime!”

Waldo hoisted his newly arrived pint and said, “That goes without saying.”


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Under The Pleasure Dome






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Jim Siergey: Under the Pleasure Dome

August 6th, 2016

Sometimes I allow myself to escape my hermitic lifestyle and mingle with the masses that exist in the outside world that is often referred to as “reality”.

Such an escapade was recently undertaken as the wife and I dusted off our Ventra cards and rode the Brown Line into the downtown area of Chicago that is charmingly and historically called “The Loop”. In fact, we actually performed the loop from whence the area got its name by railing south down Wells street, turning eastward up Van Buren and riding northbound again in order to exit at Washington and Wabash.

Such literal beings are we.

Our destination was the Chicago Cultural Center, the neo-classical building complete with doric columns, marble staircases, coffered ceilings, mahogany doors, mosaic floors and a stained glass dome. Built in 1897, it was the central public library until 1977 when it was converted to an arts and culture center.

Man, I love that building. I spent a lot of time there when it was the library, sometimes just using it as solace, an escape from the rages and turmoils of the outside world.

I’m all about escape.

The main thrust of our venturing to the Cultural Center, besides it being a wonderful place in which to spend time, was an art exhibit that I had read about in the newspaper. Yes, the newspaper.

It was an exhibit entitled “Under the Pleasure Dome” in which the artwork of Phyllis Bramson was displayed. It was a selection of paintings and assemblages from Ms. Bramson’s oeuvre covering the past thirty years.

Why, you may ask, did I choose to attend this particular exhibit? It was mainly because I have a tenuous connection to Phyllis Bramson.

In 1969 while attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, a school that a handful of years later would close due to financial scandal, I was in a Drawing and Painting class that was taught by, you guessed it, Phyllis Bramson.


Phyllis Bramson…


I would be hard pressed to remember the names of very many teachers I’ve had during my school years but I remember her. She was quite a memorable character. A feisty lady, she was slight in height, perhaps five feet tall, slender and large-busted with an explosion of dark curly hair covering her head. In fact, seeing some recent photos of her, she does not look much different than she did 40some years ago.

She and I did not see eye to eye at first. Even at my young age of 18 or 19, I was a bit of a traditionalist when it came to drawing and painting. I was not an artistically adventurous sort. Phyllis, on the other hand, took all the rule books, guide books and procedural manuals and tossed them out a window to be carried away by a stiff breeze and deposited on the polluted ripples of the Chicago River.

“Draw with your eraser!” was a memorable line of hers that she would bellow across the classroom. I didn’t cotton to her ideas and she didn’t cotton to the work I produced. She’d walk by, look at what I had done, sniff with scorn and continue on to the next student, all the while roaring her avant-garde concepts. She had a big voice for such a small frame.

She eventually won me over. I experienced what life was like outside the boundaries of the envelope into which I had sealed myself and I liked the freedom of true self-expression. She even began digging what the new me was doing and publicly expressing her approval.

One piece I remember was a study I was doing of broccoli. Why broccoli? You’d have to go back in time and ask the me of then to find out. Anyway, in parts of this study I used actual stalks of broccoli in lieu of paintbrushes. Bramson loved this.

The person whose lunch I ruined wasn’t too happy.

That’s the totality of my connection with Phyllis Bramson. I told you it was tenuous. As I said, she was a memorable entity and, through the years, I would occasionally read articles about her and see photos of the work she was doing at the time. Vicariously, but not religiously, I followed her career. But I had never gone to an exhibit of her work.

“Under the Pleasure Dome” is a grand exhibit, covering several rooms. It is filled with her recent works but it is presented very nicely with lots of “breathing space”. Her work is hard to describe as it is a combination of painting, textiles, assemblages, collage and the creative use of kitschy ceramics. One can sense the inspiration of Chinese art as well as a touch of Henry Darger.

Go see it for yourself. It’s there until August 28 so time is of the essence. But keep your eraser in your pocket.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Pierogi Fest

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Jim Siergey: Pierogi Fest

August 1st, 2016

Dear Third City readers,

For some years now I have heard of “Pierogi Fest”, the fantastic event that takes place at the end of July in Whiting, Indiana.

I describe it as ‘fantastic’ because people rave about it.They come from all over (meaning the Chicago and nearby Indiana area) to attend it. Me, I’ve never been there.

Being of good solid Polish stock, I felt that it was my ethnic responsibility to attend this festival of the Eastern European filled dough comestible so this Sunday, the last day of July and the final day of the festival, I motored out over the Illinois/Indiana border to do so.

For those who are unfamiliar with what this item is, allow me to enlighten you. But first, let’s deal with the grammatical aspect. ‘Pierogi’ is the plural of ‘pierog’. I never knew this until recently. I suppose it is because I have never eaten nor have I ever heard anyone ask for just one of these filled dumplings.

Normally, they are consumed by the carload.

Pierogi are made by wrapping pockets of unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking them in boiling water. They can also be pan fried to a toasty golden brown. Traditional fillings are sauerkraut, potato, ground meat, sweet cheese and fruits.

With that knowledge in hand, or head, let us now motor out Highway 41 into Whiting, Indiana where we will park in a lot by the high school football field and for the cost of one thin dollar, be shuttled via a big yellow school bus to the front gate of PIEROGI FEST!

In my mind, I was imagining Pierogi Fest to take place in a fair ground with lots of open space. After all, this was Indiana, where open space is abundant. Alas, I was sorely mistaken.

There was a carnival-like atmosphere to it. Off to the side here and there were booths where one could try one’s luck at playing Skee-Ball or shooting baskets, etc. There was a bounce house for the kids. There were some music stages. Elsewhere was a carousel and a Tilt-a-Whirl type ride but, mostly it was a series of food booths lined up on either side of a street.

This went on for several blocks.


Nothing like the fest…


There were many booths making and selling traditional pierogi as well as plenty of variations. There were “Mexican Pierogis” with fillings of carnitas and chorizo. There were “Pizzarogis”. Also available were Polish sausage, shish-ka-bobs, tacos, ice cream, etcetera, etcetera.

I came across one booth without a line so I sidled up and tried a couple of pierogi made with fresh Michigan blueberries. I decided to eat it as gentlemanly as I could by taking dainty bites. This was a mistake as my first dainty bite let loose a spray of blueberry juice onto the front of my shirt.

Fortunately, I was wearing a shirt of many colors. It came free inside of a Dolly Parton album.

As I trudged onward, I came upon a beer garden. I was both amused and disappointed to learn that the “Official Beer of Pierogi Fest” was… Miller Lite. Evidently, whoever was in charge of the beer faction of the fest wasn’t Polish.

It was a sunny, cloudless hot day and the fest was jam-packed with families pushing strollers and people gawking and gobbling, all sweaty shoulder to sweaty shoulder inching along the narrow street between the vendors. It was like the Kennedy Expressway without cars.

I did eventually get myself a Polish sausage sandwich and some potato and sweet cheese pierogi that were excellent but, for my money, this Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana was just a street fair. It wasn’t much different than any other street fair in Chicago.

I imagine it was much like “Taste of Chicago”, an event I have avoided throughout its existence for I have no desire to inch along trying to eat food among a throng of hot, sweaty people who are inching along trying to eat food.

I stayed at Pierogi Fest for a little over two hours before shuttling back to my car so I could inch along with a throng of hot sweaty cars on the Dan Ryan and Kennedy Expressways in order to return to the safety and sanctity of my humble abode.

In summation, my estimation is that Pierogi Fest is something to go to…once. At most.

Curmudgeonly yours, Jimski


Editor’s Note: Jimski’s last post for The Third City was Le Café Noir




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No Blaise: Marry Me

July 27th, 2016

Although I am a single and childless person I am pretty heavily involved in the toddler social scene via my position as nanny to the coolest little boy in the neighborhood.

I had to pause while typing this first sentence to pull a large chunk of spit covered mushed up peanut butter sandwich out of his mouth after he got overzealous about how much he could fit in there. But, he’s still the best.

In an effort to show him off to as many people as possible as I can everyday, we spend a lot of time out and about in the neighborhood. Being active and adorable at the park, chatting up the baristas, and petting all the dogs we come across.

It’s busy.

Yesterday, his mom told me about this “meet-up” app thing that some moms in the neighborhood had put together to tell other moms (and nannys!!!) about stuff they were doing around the neighborhood in the hopes of everyone hanging out. I was all, “Uh yeah sounds awesome.”

I promptly download the app, called “meet-up”, and it is apparently an app that can be used world-wide to meet-up with people doing stuff you think is cool and do the cool stuff with them. Once it’s downloaded it’s asking me all sorts of questions like, “what do you like to do?” “here’s some cool stuff people your age are doing in your city, are you interested?” and I’m all excuse me can you please just take me to the “West-Town-Mamas” meet up, I have toddler hangs to plan.

As I’m browsing the events West-Town-Mamas has posted, I realize there’s a story time at the library this morning! JACKPOT! I immediately RSVP, and then it asks me if I’m bringing a guest, but then I look and see that no other moms have RSVPed that they’re bringing a guest so I realize it’s implied that I’ll be bringing a toddler with me to a Mama meet-up, so I remove the guest and I hope no one noticed!!!!

The story time is at the nearby public library at 10:30, and the meet-up is at 10 because according to the other moms the story time can get pretty crowded so it’s best to get there early.

Good lookin out, mama’s.

We get there at about 10:15 because I don’t want to be too thirsty, even though I’d been thinking about it for going on 10 hours now. There are already more people there than are in the West-Town-Mamas group and I’m wondering who the other members are. Calvin and I run elbows with a few other kids/moms and generally have a good first “meet-up” despite my having no idea who was part of the WTM club and who WASN’T!!

As soon as we get home afterwards, I check the meet-up app and it’s popping off with all sorts of “sorry we missed you!” and “hope to meet next time!’ messages being exchanged. I look at some of the pictures, and realized most of the people we ended up talking to were in fact part of the “meet-up”

Of course they were, we’re soulmates.

I then get an email that tells me a mom I WTM I talked to has clicked that it was “nice to see” me.

Uh, marry me.

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Jim Siergey: Le Café Noir

July 26th, 2016

Waldo and Emerson were seated at their customary table at Le Café Noir, sipping their espressos while watching the cavalcade of humanity around them stare at their phones.

An attractive young lady in her late teens sitting at a nearby table caught Emerson’s eye. She was dressed modestly, yet smartly, in blouse, skirt and color-coordinated ballet flats.

“Now, there’s a sight to see.” said Emerson in as soft and polite a tone as he could muster, “A young girl who is not a slave to fashion. No skin-tight short skirt, no flimsy blouse with plunging neckline, no foot-strangling spiked heels. Honestly, I don’t see how women can walk in those parrot perch pumps.”

His alliterative ad lib induced a self-satisfied smile that he could not suppress.

Waldo turned his head to look in the girl’s direction and at that same moment, an obvious playboy, cad about town and mountebank of malfeasance, reeking of odious charm, slithered over to the young subject of Emerson’s acclaim where he posed and preened for a moment before pouncing.

The two gents sat and watched as the perfumed Lothario attempted to seduce the young lass. At first she ignored him but the bounder was persistent. She then asked him politely to leave her alone. He would not accept her rebuff. Finally, she began to berate him with language so salty and severe that even a sailor or stevedore would have blushed to hear such loathsome epithets. She told him in no uncertain blue tones what he should do and when as well as how.

Waldo turned back, looked at Emerson and articulately stated, “She’s swearing sensible shoos.”


Bet your bottom dollar…



Emerson had been contacted and beseeched by Annie, an old friend of his, to come see her.

He said to Waldo, “Apparently, she’s in a bit of a quandary regarding her youngest male offspring and would like my input. Won’t you come along with me, mon ami, for moral support? ”

Waldo agreed. The two set off and despite having no experience in family matters were confident that their intellect and reasoning would solve any domestic conundrum that existed.

A distraught Annie invited them into her kitchen and over cups of Oolong tea and almond cookies explained her situation. Her youngest boy had recently confided in her and revealed that he was gay.

She was not shocked or upset over his homosexuality. In fact, she had suspected it for quite some time. She felt that he needed to tell his father as well as his older brother and sister. She didn’t want him to feel ashamed about what was, up until recently, his secret. She wanted him to feel unbound and proud.

She gazed earnestly into the eyes of her old friend Emerson and asked if he thought she was doing the right thing. Was she being too forceful? Should she back off and let him make his own decisions in his own time?

She was seeking a man’s opinion. Unfortunately, the man she was asking was in a state of perplexity. Emerson did not know what to say. He cleared his throat. He hemmed. He hawed.

Finally, Waldo broke the stuttering silence and said to Annie, “Perhaps,” he suggested, “the son will come out tomorrow.”


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Jackie, Oh



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